SAN FRANCISCO -- This was one of those games that comes along in the course of a season where a championship teams needs to make a statement.Nobody on the Giants is better to make sure the message comes through loud and clear than Madison Bumgarner.The left-hander is, in the words
SAN FRANCISCO -- This was one of those games that comes along in the course of a season where a championship teams needs to make a statement.
Nobody on the Giants is better to make sure the message comes through loud and clear than Madison Bumgarner.
The left-hander is, in the words of Giants manager Bruce Bochy, "as good as there is."
And he can't be a whole lot better than he was Saturday, putting up seven scoreless innings to set the stage for a 6-2 victory against the Orioles at AT&T Park, allowing the first-place Giants to maintain a one-game lead over the Dodgers in the National League West.
Oh, there were others who had their fingerprints on what was the Giants' third win in their last five games -- which might not seem too eye-opening had they not lost 15 of the 21 games prior to that and seen the Dodgers pull even with them for one day on Tuesday.
Joe Panik did, after all, twice bounce ground-rule doubles over the AT&T fence, putting runners on second and third with one out in the second and again in the sixth, and both times, after Bumgarner couldn't get a run home, Denard Span delivered a two-out, two-run single.
But this was all about Bumgarner and what he means to the Giants. It was about him being able to ignore the fact that he had given up just one earned run in each of his last two losses, and had been winless in his five previous starts since the All-Star Break.
It was about him reaffirming to his teammates the importance of the game at hand, not the last four weeks of futility, or the challenges of the next six weeks.
"I felt like I was going out prepared and trying to win a game and do the best I can do," he said. "I was not worried about the past. I was not worried about the next 10 games. I was just thinking about getting a win."
Nothing else mattered.
Not the Dodgers afternoon victory over the Pirates, which put them in position to move back into a tie for the division lead if the Giants stumbled. And not the fact that the Dodgers had been able to eradicate that 6 1/2-game All-Star break deficit and put themselves into position to be just a Giants' loss away from sitting atop the division.
"When it gets down to it, the sense of urgency starts on Day 1," Bumgarner said. "You want to win every game you play."
Sometimes, however, things may be a bit more urgent than others. One of those times was Saturday night. And when those situations arise, Bochy is very comfortable when Bumgarner takes the mound.
"He is as good as there is," said Bochy. "Look at his history. He's a guy who picks the team up. You can put [Johnny] Cueto in there too. They are both No. 1's. But Madison, what he has accomplished in the game, gives the team confidence when it needs a win."
He did on Sunday night in Washington, allowing just one run on two hits in a complete-game effort against the Nationals, but he and the Giants lost 1-0.
Then, Bumgarner did it again Saturday, this time working seven shutout innings and getting the needed support from Span's two-run singles and a two-run Brandon Belt home run in the seventh.
"It is good to get him a win and the team a win," said Bochy. "We have lost some tough ones with him. To pitch the way he's been pitching and not get a win can be frustrating."
Not for Bumgarner, though. That's why he is Madison Bumgarner, and not just another lefty in the rotation. He has that confidence that allows him to ignore frustrations and stay focused on success.
"When it is important to win a game he gives the club so much hope in the way he competes," said Bochy. "You know he's going to give us a chance to win."
And the Giants took advantage of that opportunity on Saturday night.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.